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  • Talan Memmott 13:52 on August 8, 2014 Permalink |  

    photomontage and meme-mixing 

    dick-cheney-robot-heart-weekly-world-newsjust some examples in reply to Andrew’s comment on Lisa’s post.alienendorsesobama


  • aklobucar 06:40 on August 8, 2014 Permalink |  

    Gestic Play: Meme Capital – The Marketplace of Non-Ideas 



    5 August Assignment: On Gestic Play

    Break down an image macro meme to demonstrate how the rhetoric is constrained. When you post, discuss how this operates in regard to virality of the meme, and what is in fact being communicated.




    The idea of introducing Brecht’s theory of “gestus” or the “gestic” into a critical analysis of memes/meme culture seems promising. As Talan reminds us, in the gestus we have perhaps a similar combination of attitude and physical action able to provoke a dialogism between human behaviour in relation to social power (represented usually in terms of class). For Brecht, this dialogism usefully contrasts the more typical binary of conscious/unconscious drives that psychoanalysis might employ to analyse behaviour. In both discourses – gestic critique and psychoanalysis – we have a kind of disclosure occurring, where the immediately perceived action appears under-written or somehow complicated by hidden, more meaningful attitudes and feelings. Just as unconscious drives can manifest in everyday activities in Freud’s work, we see class relations inevitably revealing themselves, becoming visible in attitudinal displays beyond or in parallel to physical interactions according to Brecht. The Starbucks employee pours my grande Pike Roast for the 8th time in as many days, same time every morning, and yet this one instance, this one morning, I see a middle finger curl up at me just before I reach for the cup. “Be careful,” he tells me, “it’s too hot to drink.”

    But it’s at this point in our analysis that we have to make clear that the gestus in the meme is not just about the image, right? Or is it, as this can also be an open question? The attitude may certainly be a product of the image – specifically in the overlaying of a particularly “snarky” message on top of an unrelated image to produce an ironic, sardonic point. But the physical gesture is the mass-redistribution (including editing, remixing) of the image itself. In other words, my physical action is simply me using digital networks to distribute a message (possibly to friends, a social circle, a “community” I imagine I am part of), sharing a common laugh… ha, ha, ha. But actually I am also performing a critical, class-based protest via the attitude that is inevitably revealed in the image. This so-called community, I seem to be saying, this internet of LOL joy, is restrictive, exploitative, maintaining strict power relations between the celebrity haves and the rest of the so-called flexible work-force that supports digital capitalism.

    So my question here: can this relationship be tweaked out of individual memes by examining the rhetorical strategies, design and distribution history of specific images? Can this critical method help us analyse the Doge, for example.

    I chose this one for two reasons: one, it’s the only meme that has a direct relationship to the digital economy in that it literally became a form of currency – the Doge coin, pictured above; and, two, I actually own a Shiba Inu, the dog breed featured in this meme.

    The phenomenon of the Dogecoin is typically understood as a “cryptocurrency,” meaning that it is an official medium of exchange on the Internet used to build and enforce a “secure” online distribution network for information deemed especially sensitive. The bitcoin is probably the best known. Cryptocurrencies are algorithmically mined into existence. In the spring of 2014, close to 70 million Dogecoins were brought into circulation.

    Now I know, for this assignment, we should probably introduce a short history of the meme we are analyzing and then move into a descriptive analysis of the image itself, emphasizing its rhetorical structure.

    So here’s pre-meme record of the actual dog that became the model for the Doge meme:



    This is “Kabosu,” a Shiba Inu who lives with Atsuko Sato, who, the story goes, was surprised to find in 2011 that a photo she had posted of her dog to her own blog was being circulated widely around the Web.


    Indeed, this part of the story, for me, matches my personal experience of my own dog’s behaviour, in that Shiba Inus have an interesting penchant for exhibiting very lively facial expressions. Their eyes are constantly moving and their mouths are known to curl up quite easily when they are happy, making it seem as if they are perpetually smiling. So above is the original photo Sato took of her dog as she was playing with her, poking her finger towards her face, getting her to react to her.

    And now the meme:


    So we see here a distinct difference to the format Talan has introduced us to in that, to make a “Doge,” one must forego the typical white upper text, lower text presentation in favour of a set of multicoloured short expressive phrases that together are meant to suggest the over-excited, stream-of-consciousness, mental state one imagines this kind of dog to have. “Wow,” thinks the Doge, “Concern,” “So Scare.”

    So – looking at this image rhetorically, noting its swift conversion into a class-based critique of digital capitalism and cryptocurrencies (2013-14), can we not say align the excited, yet fearful attitude of the doge with the precariat worker of the 21st century digital economy, watching the digital middle finger of the crypto-capitalist as it continues to prod and surveil our emotion-laden communications/exchanges in the chatrooms of social media. “Concern” we must have. “So Scare!”

    • ajabine 08:02 on August 8, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Aklobucar, because I am so new to the abstract terminology of semiotics, I found thisentry most interesting once you focused directly on your chosen meme, its history and development. I don’t yet see the connection between the doge bitcoin and the rise of what you call the “precariat worker” (so that’s what I’ve become!–I love this new word). I do appreciate that you point out the narrowness of Talan’s description of the meme format. The “upper-and-lower caption” feature seems to be just one of many.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Talan Memmott 09:04 on August 8, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      The narrowness of my definition was intentional, as most often what is called a meme is in fact an image macro, and only sometimes a meme. The term meme get attached to so much that is not a meme. As I have said in presentations on meme culture, most recently at the ELO conference — a meme is not a meme until it becomes a meme. As such, my definition is not a definition at all, but an example of a particular type of image macro that is perhaps most commonly associated with the term meme.
      Looking at the performative classification I outline, we could ask where is the meme, what is the meme? Is it the artifact — the photographic documentation of an action, is it the action, the local reaction, the networked reaction???
      As an image macro becoming meme, doge has its own rules and conditions. In the many examples of this meme we see multi-colored comic sans, broken grammar, and a somewhat haphazard placement of text. This sort of consistent formatting and language, regardless of image macro type, as a condition for becoming meme is interesting to me. We would not expect this format say on Overly Attached Girlfriend, or Good Guy Greg, which both have the top/bottom caption arrangement. Perhaps, the consistency of rhetroical conditions in any given meme provide some sort of precarious security for the precariat…

      Liked by 1 person

  • Talan Memmott 18:26 on August 6, 2014 Permalink |  



  • constancex 15:42 on August 6, 2014 Permalink |  

    Re: Celebrity Dafuq 


  • Jeff T. Johnson 14:36 on August 6, 2014 Permalink |  


    around the time we met (ca. ’07), claire and i invented puffing. no one had ever done this before! we present to you documentation of this photofad, and encourage your assistance in meme-ifying it.

    the important thing with puffing is to go for volume. do everything that hurts most when you blow up balloons. puffing, tho, should not hurt. the trick is to get the photo before your puff explodes. to really make your puff pop, widen your eyes. you might also attempt a puff smile, tho it may decrease volume and result in an inferior puff. puffing both foils and incrediblizes photos, particularly when you are less than stoked to have your photo taken. next time your mom’s boyfriend makes you assemble and freeze for a photo (and a backup photo), just puff it!

    trick out your puff with a coordinated vchat screen capture


    back your puff with puffy shapes


    or assemble your own puff posse


    come up with your own variations!


  • clairedonato 14:19 on August 6, 2014 Permalink |  

    Performative Meme: Botoxing 

    In 2008, in Providence, RI, Jeff and I invented botoxing, a meme in which the lower lip curls down while the tongue covers the top lip. Here are a few examples; I/we encourage you to make your own! botoxing botoxing2 botoxing3 botoxing4

  • Talan Memmott 08:38 on August 6, 2014 Permalink |  


    I was thinking about the juxtaposition of celebrity and the top caption in the DAFUQ example.



  • constancex 06:14 on August 6, 2014 Permalink |  

    assign 2 — add 


    • constancex 12:41 on August 6, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Yes, in response to Talan’s comment on ajabine’s … maybe part of a series called “bigger problems.”

      Liked by 1 person

  • lisacramp 22:36 on August 5, 2014 Permalink |  

    August 5: Gestic PLay 


    “Sweet Brown” started as a video of a woman describing an incident of a local fire on a news channel and quickly exploded on the internet and became an example of emergent, iterative, and gestic memery.

    Emergent example:


    This youtube video is a ten hour remixed loop of Sweet Brown singing over various images of popular culture (Monty Python is even included!) as well as other Internet meme/youtube sensations. (Jonas Brother’s remake of Beyonce’s Single Ladies video is included– that’s at least three layers of popular culture reference) Tyrannosaurus Jesus is also included, as well as Hipster Jesus. There is very much a sense of inclusion in this community, that memes build upon one another within the constraint of an invisible arbitrary set of rules.

    Iterative/Gestic examples:

    sweetbrownnobody-got-time-for-that reading long posts aint nobody got time for that

    The text on the bottom stays the same, as does the attitude. What I find interesting in the deviations of this meme are when Sweet Brown is no longer included in the photo. At what point does the collective community agree that this meme no longer works? The attitude can remain dismissive and the expression similar but when does the meme pass the invisible barrier of “memedom” and no longer register as successful? I would argue that a meme only works if it is operating on several levels at ones, and in the case of Sweet Brown we not only have a catchy phrase but also a somewhat stereotypical example of a lower income african-american woman. Memes mock taboo subjects as well as promote them in an anonymous environment. One only has to log into websites such as 4Chan to see the rampant anonymous sexism and racism that publicly would be unacceptable. I would be curious to see a breakdown of the socio-economic level and ethnicity of the promoters of this meme (and maybe tea party affiliation). Is this serving as a type of Al Jolson reaffirmation of long held racial stereotypes? Which level of this meme are they laughing at???


    Sweet Brown

    • Talan Memmott 22:46 on August 5, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Nice example and observations. I think you see why this seminar is called “meme on meme action”, as you make this point in your post.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff T. Johnson 14:49 on August 6, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      among other things, i appreciate your attention to and play with meme-mixing and morphing. c. and i talked this morning about the possibility of franken-memes (cross-referencing and remixing, also suggested in course materials re: intertextuality), and your post gives me more to think about along those lines. thanks!


    • aklobucar 13:38 on August 8, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      This is a great example with some excellent points of analysis. I agree with Jeff, the meme-mixing displayed here really allows elements of class critique or even a bit of editorialising to emerge. Can this be related in any way to newspaper editorial cartoons as they developed out of mass journalism in the 18th century?


    • Talan Memmott 13:50 on August 8, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Perhaps. But, I see a much more directly relationship to photomontage, especially of the Weekly World News variety. I will post some examples in this category.

      Liked by 1 person

  • ajabine 19:28 on August 5, 2014 Permalink |  


    Okay, time is short and I’m lazy, so I’m going with Assignment A, the image macro meme.

    dafuq girl

    This is the version of this meme that I’ve seen most frequently, but I expect to see other variations–always with the tagline “Dafuq?”–before this dies away. I say this because the little girl’s expression so perfectly registers the experience of being incredulous, of literally not believing a person/institution/etc would do/say/perpetrate/believe such a thing (whatever is being referred to at the top).

    In this particular variation, I think some of its effectiveness is that for many viewers, the sentiment expressed will provide a pleasant shock of recognition. We have all experienced feeling mildly annoyed at some perceived breach of etiquette–e.g., a person who asks to “friend” you and then asks you who you are, as though the contact was your idea and not theirs–without it rising to the level of actually complaining about it. When we see that other people also find this bothersome, it’s a reality check — it confirms our own vague and heretofore unexpressed annoyance.

    This meme takes a lot of its effectiveness from the juxtaposition of the mildly but thuggishly profane expression “Dafuq?” (shorthand for “what the fuck?”, of course) with the face of a little girl of kindergarten age. Her expression registers a mocking disbelief that is comically discordant with the attitudes we expect from a child whose mom still fixes her pigtails for her. It  suggests that even a child would recognize the stupidity/injustice/etc of whatever it is the meme is targeting in its top line.

    A key reason I think this meme will go on being reproduced is that it is 50% easier to set up than the typical iterative meme–the bottom tagline is already provided, so all you need to produce is the top line. Talk about your rhetorical constraint! And since we all have complaints and we are virulently at odds on so many issues–the second amendment, Obamacare, Israel/Palestine, etc., etc.–this simple “Dafuq” meme lends itself to an almost limitless number of topics.

    • Talan Memmott 19:53 on August 5, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      I think you have hit upon something. In the case of DAFUQ memes, and the one you provided, the captions could remain entirely the same, while the image changes. Still, the framework is maintained through a sort of gestus — gesture and attitude — if the face in the image has a similar expression.

      Liked by 2 people

      • ajabine 07:38 on August 6, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

        I thought about that, Talan. I had considered using an example in which the text remained the same and the images varied. And thanks for introducing me to yet another word I’ve never heard before–gestus. Now I will have to go look that up.


    • constancex 19:59 on August 5, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      Rite? I’d go find “Side-face Chloe” but … nahhh …

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff T. Johnson 18:10 on August 6, 2014 Permalink | Log in to Reply

      another thing maybe reflected in the static text at the bottom of the meme is the coyness about profanity in many regions of social media. the impact (and sway) of a word like fuck is acknowledged in the shrouded, quasi-censored usage (cf f*ck, f that), but its taboo is perhaps amplified by the suggestion that it is unsayable but also goes without saying (completely). so dafuq is both colloquial neological appropriation and disinfected curse word. maybe safe for work, and maybe even perversely appropriate for children (and/or the child subjectified in your example). of course, tons of social construction is pressure-packed into the previous sentence.

      Liked by 2 people

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